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“Be still and know that I am God!” There are few verses in the whole Bible that I need to remember more than this one. Unfortunately, I am wired for anything other than stillness in knowing that God is God.
When I was a boy, I loved watching Adventures of Superman on our black-and-white Motorola television set. How I longed to be just like that “strange visitor from another planet” who fought a “never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”
Superman, ironically enough, has much in common with the king who is praised in Psalm 45. This psalm is unusual in that it is addressed, not to God or to the people of Israel, but to the king on the occasion of his wedding (45:13-15).
Psalm 44:23-24 comes in the context of an extended lament, in which the psalmist accuses God of mistreating his people, even though they have not broken his covenant (44:17). The lament concludes with this gripping verse: “Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (v. 22).
If Psalm 43 seems strangely familiar, that’s because it is the ending of the psalm we know as Psalm 42. This is clear from the themes as well as the exact echo of 42:11 in 43:5. Both verses read: “Why, my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty. I’m not thinking about ordinary thirst, the kind you can quench with a quick drink of water. Rather, I have in mind an aching, desperate thirst. Have you experienced anything like this?
In the NRSV, Psalm 41:1 reads, “Happy are those who consider the poor; the LORD delivers them in the day of trouble.” The English verb “to consider” rightly captures the sense of the underlying Hebrew verb, which means, “to pay attention, to ponder” (sakhal in the Hiphil). This verb conveys the sense of focusing one’s mind and heart on something or someone.
When I read Psalm 40:1, I am immediately reminded of how hard it is for me to wait patiently for anything, including the Lord. I confess that I find waiting to be frustrating if not excruciating. I’m one of those people who, when approaching the checkout lines in the grocery story, carefully calculates the wait times in the various lines so that I don’t have to waste one second of my busy life standing around. Inevitably, of course, I get in the line behind the person who needs a “Price check on 6.” As I wait, I can feel my stomach churning with anxious impatience.
In Psalm 39, David ponders the meaning of life in light of his suffering. He considers how short life can be (39:5) and how readily we fill it with emptiness. We go around “like a mere phantom” as we “rush about, heaping up wealth” (39:6). This verse is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, which reflects upon the vanity of life. In fact, the word hebel, translated as “vanity” or “meaningless” in the NIV, and used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, is the word behind “in vain” in Psalm 39:6.
Have you ever worked so hard and so long that you made yourself sick? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your colleagues and even your friends at work were avoiding you, perhaps even whispering behind your back? If so, then you can relate to Psalm 38.
Psalm 37:4 is one of those verses that Christians can twist to suit their own fancy. For example, I have heard some preachers claim, on the basis of this verse, that God will give us anything we desire. If we simply “claim it,” God will give us mansions, yachts, luxury cars, and, well, you name it. To be sure, God can and does bless us materially. But to argue from Psalm 37:4 that “God will give you anything you want” misses the whole point of the verse.
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